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Don Welker's Financial Minute

May 15, 2018, 9:00 AM


Your business is growing, and week after week you’re finding yourself asking your part-time CFO to put in extra hours. It’s time to make the leap to a full-time CFO! Here are six key things you should look for when hiring for this critically-important role:

Industry expertise – While a good CFO’s skill set should enable this person to transition from industry to industry, the reality is that many industries have unique needs. Look for someone who either already understands yours, or is willing to take on the challenge of learning all about it.

Education and background – Do they have a CPA? Are they experienced in all or most of the things you will need them to do, or just a subset of this? For example, you may need your CFO to do more than manage the financial aspects of the business; the CFO is often the one who oversees IT and Human Resources as well. Which means you’re looking for someone with a strong enough understanding of these areas to be able to hire and manage the right people…and the energy to do so.

Ability to manage change – In a growing company the CFO is often called upon to help get everyone on board with changes that need to happen, and then manage the change process as it takes place. Look for a CFO who has successfully done this in the past.

Problem solving abilities – Ask the job candidate about their top accomplishments in the past five years. Their answers will likely shed some light on their problem-solving skills, as well as their willingness to tackle new challenges and learn new things.

Soft skills – As with all new hires, excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital. Once they crunch the numbers, for example, will they be able to communicate useful, actionable information to you based on their findings? Will their management style fit in with your company culture? Will they contribute valuable viewpoints and expertise to the management team?

Computer skills – At most companies, the CFO will need to be current in Microsoft Office products, including Excel, PowerPoint and Word…and how all of this works in the Cloud with Office 365.

The right CFO can make a big difference for your company. Unfortunately, as some of my clients have learned the hard way, the wrong CFO can make a big difference, too—through bad advice, shoddy work or even outright criminal activity, such as embezzlement. The lesson here is you must take the time to find and hire the right person. Don’t just fill the seat!

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